Bledisloe Cup in Hong Kong
Hong Kong sets stage for global expansion
October 31, 2008
Mark Chisholm of the Wallabies passes the ball during the Australian Wallabies captain's run at Hong Kong Stadium on October 31, 2008 in Hong Kong, China.
The impressive Hong Kong Stadium will play host to the final Bledisloe Cup clash of the year © Getty Images

Hong Kong's staging of tomorrow's Bledisloe Cup roadshow has enthused the New Zealand and Australian Rugby Unions' to such an extent that they probably won't be back.

While the executive director of the Hong Kong Rugby Union Allan Payne hoped the fourth and final trans-Tasman clash of the year would herald the start of a string of 15-a-side matches at Hong Kong Stadium, it seems the All Blacks and Wallabies may not be returning -- at least together -- for some time.

The decision to play on neutral territory has been vindicated by a near sellout crowd but now other venues appear the priority as both unions seek to maximise revenues on the back of their brands. Hong Kong Stadium has a capacity of 40,000, a relatively small ground in terms of what might be sourced elsewhere in Asia and the United States.

Negotiations are already well advanced to hold a one-off Bledisloe Cup stopover in Denver as the teams head to Europe next season. Invesco Field at Mile High, home of the Denver Broncos American Football franchise, has a capacity of 76,000 while Tokyo has also been touted as a potential venue.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew confirmed the All Blacks would not be back in 2009 but the organisation -- and team -- were delighted with the facilities and response they had encountered.

"We're very pleased with what's happened to date. Financially it's been very good and in the current environment that's a testament to the strength of the two teams we have on the paddock and the work that's been done in Hong Kong," he said.

He said the Hong Kong excursion was the first stage of a strategy to grow the game -- and the All Blacks brand -- globally. "We've got several opportunities ahead of us for 2009-10, and not necessarily all Bledisloe Cup matches," he said.

A match against England on neutral ground in 2010 was among the considerations.

Tew's Australian Rugby Union counterpart John O'Neill said the Wallabies would look to play other matches on neutral ground and not necessarily the All Blacks.

He thought the Wallabies and Springboks at Twickenham would attract the English and ex-pat communities while Australia against England in Dubai or Hong Kong were enticing.

Meanwhile, Tew and O'Neill discounted the possibility of including Tri-Nation's matches on their journey to spread the rugby gospel. "That would have to be very carefully considered, there would have to be good reasons," Tew said.

Despite Eden Park and AMI Stadium both being under reconstruction for the 2011 World Cup, there had never been any thought of the All Blacks' home tests moving offshore next season.


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